Sailing the Drake Passage

Feb 13, 2019 - National Geographic Orion


The last day of a great expedition always feels a bit melancholy. But as our ship makes its way back through the tumultuous Drake Passage, one is reminded in such conditions of the unparalleled starkness and beauty of the Antarctic expanse. Perhaps the significance underpinning this experience comes in having endeavored across the mightiest ocean on Earth. Or perhaps instead the value lies in the fortune of having a vessel as capable as National Geographic Orion take us into such a visceral wilderness, and just over 100 years after Shackleton and his crew famously set out to traverse across the same seas.

Suffice it to say, there isn’t much that compares to the sailing the Southern Ocean after an incredible journey to the White Continent.

To begin our day on the Drake, we enjoyed naturalist Ian Bullock’s account of the famed polar explorer Ernest Shackleton in a wonderful presentation titled, “Live Donkey or Dead Lion.” As the swell and wind blasted impressive waves past us, we kept a lookout from the bridge and observation deck for wildlife.

Geologist Andreas Madsen also gave a presentation about Antarctic geology. After such an amazing trip around the Antarctic Peninsula, it is only fair that we make the most of this experience by learning about how our actions at home impact the future of this uniquely fragile ecosystem. Our day included a showing of the documentary Chasing Ice and a presentation about the tiny but critically important Antarctic Krill.

As National Geographic Orion continues its way north across the Antarctic Convergence, we settled in for our evening recap and a deliciously festive South American-inspired dinner. We may be closer to home, but our journey is certainly not over. We turn in for the evening, excited for what else we will continue to see out at sea tomorrow.

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About the Author

Maya Santangelo

Naturalist/Expedition Diver

Maya was born and raised in Southern California, where her curiosity for the natural world was encouraged from an early age. Relocating to Sydney, Australia with her family at 11 years old, she learned to scuba dive, eventually becoming a PADI Instructor. Her fascination for the underwater world undoubtedly fueled her interest to study marine biology at James Cook University. Working as a professional guide in some of the world’s top dive destinations, including Palau and Mexico’s Guadalupe Island and Revillagigedo Archipelago, Maya realized a passion for sharing her love for the ocean with others, and the value of citizen science in the dive industry.

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